BEST INDIAN GROCERY - 2006
We wince to think of it, but a trillion years ago when culottes were first in and we were dinner-party novices, we stood in an aisle in a local mega-mart trying to decide which was the packet of coconut called for in the curry we planned, the one whose contents were, as the label inexplicably boasted, desiccated, or the one that was moist but so sugary it wasn't even fit to make macaroons. What poseurs we were, and how lucky that our friends were too Lutheran and poorly traveled to guess the errors of our ways. Fast-forward a number of prosperous years and we now know that spice packets really are a pale imitation of a homemade masala, and that jarred chutney is never as good as fresh. More importantly, we learned that the Twin Cities are overflowing with great ethnic markets bursting with the spices and ingredients you need to make masala, chutney, biryani, and more. Our current favorite Indian market happens to be Patel, on Central in Nordeast, which we enjoy for its wide aisles—laid out in a manner mostly comprehensible even to the neophyte shopper. Karhi, fenugreek, and other fresh herbs, produce, and an extensive array of prepared snacks and delicacies, including unadulterated grated coconut frozen in convenient zip-top bags—it's all here, but if for some reason it isn't, there's another well-stocked Indian grocery just across the street.